Analysis of “The Boogeyman”
This Stephen King
short story is about how children’s lack of reality sense, and therefore also their vivid imagination
, lets them to see things that adults never could. The things, that the main character Lester Billings’ children can see, are in this case a monster
: A so-called Boogeyman.
Now, the Boogeyman is a widely spread myth, and there are many stories of the Boogeyman, but his intentions are always the same: He is no Mr. Nice guy
. This particular Boogeyman lives in a closet, a rather traditional place to stay in this profession. Other Boogeyman-habitats might include places such as dark cellars, behind a tree in a public park
or beneath beds
. The fact that the Boogeyman lives in a closet, merely underlines that the Boogeyman is a tale for children. Only children have the innocent imagination to believe them, because they are not yet members in ‘the reasonable tribe’ of humanity
The difference in this Boogeyman story however, is that this one is actually happening. Lester Billings’ children are being killed! While these murders are not violent crimes, the death of a child is always horrible (and might lead to justifying hallucinations). It is your basic innocence versus the world. Some human beings have, in this world, deteriorated to the level of dumb beasts. Preying on others to feed their own animalistic needs (like Patrick Bateman
from American Psycho
). The Boogeyman is not traditionally a human, though he is born from human imagination and desire for thrills… But, one might argue, that anything created by humans is human, and therefore the Boogeyman must be human, just like nuclear war
and fancy clothing
During a person’s lifespan, he or she loses more and more of their childish imagination whilst advancing in scientific beliefs. Science contra imagination means a lot to this story: To sum up what I already said, children will believe almost anything, because they are not yet familiar with the ways of the modern world. Stephen King
however, wrote this short story with a twist - The twist being that the Boogeyman is real. Protagonist Lester Billings realizes, that his own lack of childish imagination, had it been present, might have saved his children from the Boogeyman. I quote:
“I started to think, maybe if you think of a thing long enough, believe in it, it gets real. Maybe all the monsters we were scared of when we were kids, Frankenstein and Wolfman and Mummy, maybe they were real. Real enough to kill the kids they said fell in gravel pits or drowned in lakes or were just never found. Maybe grownups unmake that world because we are so sure of the world’s normalcy” page 41-42, line 45-5
Before this part of the story, Lester had reprimanded his children for claiming there were monsters hidden behind the closet door. Due to this large gap between what his children knew for the truth, and what he could not believe, the children who were able to understand the danger of the Boogeyman are left helpless in their beds, while their only chance of salvation leaves the room. This is what eats up our narrator; he knows that even though he did not kill the children himself, he is certainly guilty in neglecting them, which, in effect, is the reason for them ending up nine feet below ground
. Lester simply does not have the imaginative capacity to answer when his children reach out for help. That might be one reason for the death of the child - another might be that Lester, prior to the first murder, has come to think of his children as unwanted responsibilities
. One might venture so far, as to say the fact that Lester denies his children’s cry for help, could have arisen from his subconscious desire to see himself rid of them.
In conclusion, the points of the story are many. I narrowed it down to the following:
The dangers of neglecting your children.
A stab at explaining the imaginative capacities that separate the young from the old. This would argue, that a child not yet exposed to enough evil, is vulnerable in his/her ignorance to adult human behaviour.
Supernatural creatures and elements are a reality.
It is my belief that the best conclusion would be number 2. I have read other Stephen King short stories and novels (such as “Firestarter
” and “Pet Semetary
”), and I feel qualified and confident enough to say that number two (with a touch of number three) is a topic Mr. King likes.